Yesterday Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.) introduced the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010. In a statement from Rep. Clarke’s office the act “seeks to strengthen and expand the U.S. government’s current program on international family planning and reproductive health into a more comprehensive sexual and reproductive health program.”
The bill, H.R. 5121, touches upon all aspects of family planning and reproductive health, from sex education, to birth control, to STI and HIV prevention, as well as encouraging the abandonment of female genital mutilation, and reducing incidences of unsafe abortion.
“The United States has achieved remarkable successes in its international family planning and reproductive health program, and this bill would extend its leadership role on global sexual and reproductive health issues,” said Rep. Clarke, in a released statement. “By revising existing legislation to meet current international standards, we can establish an integrated, progressive model for delivering more efficient and effective sexual and reproductive health services across the globe.”
According to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, which applauded the bill, the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010 would integrate related health services such as family planning, maternal health, safe abortion where legal, treatment and management of STIs and reproductive cancers, and ensure that these services are financially and physically accessible. It would also link HIV and maternal health programs, addressing one of the leading causes of maternal death in southern and eastern Africa.
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“Current U.S. foreign policy lacks a cohesive, overarching strategy for tackling urgent sexual and reproductive health matters and ultimately marginalizes women’s health,” said Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity. “This act would require the executive branch to develop and implement a strategy to improve and create linkages among sexual and reproductive health services and other health care, signaling the government’s first move towards evidence-based reproductive health policies that have the potential to significantly impact global health.”
International Women’s Health Coalition has also applauded the bill.
“Access to contraception and safe abortion services is fundamental to a woman’s ability to exercise her rights to control her body, to self-determination, and to maintain her health,” said Adrienne Germain, president, International Women’s Health Coalition in a released statement. “In the 21st century no woman should die or suffer the traumas of an unsafe or illegal abortion.”
Original co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Dennis Moore (D-Kansas), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Diane Watson (D-Calif.), and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).
“Fulfilling the need for sexual and reproductive health services would produce dramatic results,” Rep. Clarke said in a statement. “For example, providing contraceptives to the 215 million women in developing countries who are not able to access modern contraceptive methods would avert: 53 million unintended pregnancies; 150,000 women from dying of pregnancy-related complications; 600,000 children from losing their mothers, and 25 million induced abortions each year. Simultaneously investing in family planning services and pregnancy-related care would achieve even greater results by slashing maternal deaths by 70 percent and newborn deaths by almost half.”
Reproductive and sexual health and justice organizations worked pro-actively in the weeks before the bill was introduced to educate members of Congress about it. Some groups also worked pro-actively to educate poetntial grassroots supporters in part by organizing a campus tour. Will Neville of Advocates for Youth writes:
The 2010 campus tour was a collaboration between students from U.S. colleges and universities, International Youth Speak Out Project activists from Nigeria and Jamaica, Advocates for Youth, and Americans for Informed Democracy. The tour was intended to highlight the voices and experiences of young people all over the world in the fight for youth sexual and reproductive health and rights. The…tour included stops at the George Washington University, Missouri University, Northwestern University, Rutgers University-Brunswick, Swarthmore College, and Western Kentucky University.